"LEXINGTON, Mass. - Sundays at the evangelical Grace Chapel megachurch look like the American ideal of race relations: African-American, Haitian, white, Chinese and Korean families sing along with a white, guitar-playing pastor.
U.S. churches rarely have this kind of ethnic mix. But that's changing. Researchers who study race and religion say Grace Chapel is among a vanguard of megachurches that are breaking down racial barriers in American Christianity, altering the long-segregated landscape of Sunday worship. ..."
I have expressed my skepticism in the past about megachurches. My problems are not with their theology, but with their size. It seems, though, that they are further along in at least one area with which traditional denominations are struggling.
The church service is often called the most segregated time and place one can find in the United States, and much discussion in the "mainline" denominations has revolved around the question of how to change that. My observations over the years lead me to believe that this segregation is largely an artifact of people choosing congregations where they are comfortable, rather than resulting from overt racism. This must not preclude our asking "why?", though. Nor should it preclude out making efforts to welcome everyone around the Lord's Table.
This issue of segregation is one where the megachurches seem more effective than the mainline congregations. This Associated Press article suggests that many of the traditional denominations have a lot of baggage when it comes to racial issues, and that minorities may view such denominations with suspicion. Megachurches, many of which are non-denominational, may not have as much of a history of racial issues to overcome. On the other hand, when I searched for the original report (from 2005) on which much of this article is based, it appeared that megachurches are not particularly non-denominational by nature.
Scott Thumma, the lead author on this report, is also working on a book to be published in July of 2007, and thus may have supplied additional information to the author of the AP report. I'd like to learn more about this. It seems we might have something to learn from the megachurches.